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Decision crisis – having doubts about going to grad school at all

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Hello everyone!

I don’t post here much so quick rundown.

I have a BA in political science and psychology, class of 2010. Currently working in a random ‘in the meantime’ corporate job for the past 6 months.

Anyway, I made the last minute decision in December to apply for Masters in Statistics.

The results are back:

Purdue and Iowa: denied.

NIU, Loyola, Michigan State, Illinois-Urbana-Champaign(top choice – in state) – admitted! (without funding of course – it’s a masters).

Anyway I’m fairly certain I can complete the master’s in 1 calendar year. (3 courses fall, 4 courses spring, 2 courses summer).

However… all of the sudden I’m having doubts about attending.

I’ve been taking a linear algebra class as part of my preparations – and although I’m doing very well, I find it painful/ very difficult to crack open the linear algebra textbook in most nights. It just doesn’t inspire or enthuse me a great deal.

Now I’m thinking – is this a sign of things to come? I became greatly interested in stats due to my psychology and political science work and experiments – but at the same time, the ANOVA’s and regressions and logit/ probit models of undergrad social sciences are a far cry from Rao-Blackwell theorem or Edgeworth expansions. For starters they didn’t require ANY calculus, vectors, or linear algebra. I’m confident in my abilities in those, but I’m not so certain about my interest --- especially in theoretical math. I love applied statistical study more for the relevance and the insight – to be honest the discoveries in my linear algebra class about math were sort of interesting (particularly underdetermined vs overdetermined systems), but not as much as a psychology course.

I’m just having doubts about my math interest all the sudden. And then there’s the career afterwards. I’m not what one would call “certain” about my career interests. Would a one year masters pigeon hole me into a math or data based career for life? Or would it open up opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise?

Add to THAT, that recently a new job has come knocking on my door. Better salary, benefits, etc. It’s working with technology AND data analysis, including some statistics. The guy is willing to give me the job provided I don’t have graduate school plans in the fall, of course, which is sensible. This would be a great opportunity to see if data analysis is something I DO enjoy doing right now, plus I would learn more about business and further my technology/ programming skills. Wouldn’t that be better on doubling down on an unknown (grad school in applied stat?) --- or would 1 year, $13,500 total tuition grad school be so little an investment in time and money, that it would be fool-hearty NOT to do it?

I’m just so confused right now. I’m a bit intimidated by grad school, and I’m not CERTAIN math and stats is the ultimate field for me. Or whether a year of calculus + vector based upper level math is going to be a masochistic experience. I also feel like grad school is a now-or-never proposition.

Add to my career uncertainty, the social aspect. My social life is in shambles right now to an extent due to a period of unemployment after graduation (I’m still living at home, but would move out if taking the new job). And I think the allure of returning to a college environment (although grad school is MUCH different than undergrad socially I’ve heard) for social reasons might be clouding my judgment ---- like maybe I’m sort of enticed by visions of a great social life – even though just a one year grad program --- and not necessarily the rigorous study of upper-level statistics and stochastic processes.

Finally – and not to downplay the stats folk here – but for most business purposes, are THAT complex of statistics really needed, outside of high finance or insurance?

That would be my main goal of MS in Stats – to put myself in a better position to pursue a career I like. Aka, purely to get a job in industry. But do most jobs/ businesses/ fields --- other than finance, pharm, or insurance --- require thorough knowledge of Bayesian statistics or what not? I don’t know. I could always crack open a textbook on Categorical Analysis or Time Series myself, too, outside of school.

I’m just having a quarter life crisis right now it seems. Do I go to grad school? Take the new job? Yes, the main problem is I’m unsure of my ultimate career interests.

Anyone have similar feeling or know what to do? Advice especially welcome from people who went to grad school for stats, or other perspectives as well.

Forgot to mention: I have to decide if I want the new job by Sunday! (two days) Freaking out!

Edited by peter_parker
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I'm still undergraduate, planning on applying in the fall to grad school... but here's my opinion.

I think that if you're having doubts about school, you should not attend this year. Take the job and see how you like it and reassess your career goals..... You can always re-apply to grad school next year (and if you were accepted this year, you're likely to be accepted again in the future), but you may not get another job offer like this.... If you work through the summer and realize you really would like to attend graduate school, then you can apply in the fall.... However, if you go to grad school and realize after a semester that you don't want it, you've lost money to tuition and you're left without a job.

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In all honesty, at this point, after a bit of experience + skill development it's not terribly difficult to obtain a job it seems (provided your are currently employed). Ironic given that about a year ago it seemed near impossible for me as a fresh graduate.

The graduate application process is fairly involved, and I already feel a bit bad telling my recommendation-writing professors that I had second thoughts and decided not to go. Not the paramount concern, but my point is that it would be pretty difficult for me to fire up the grad school application engine again.

Still have a bit to think about. It seems most people going to grad school are pretty certain about the proposition and in love with their subject matter. I can't say I am at that point. At the same time, it'll only be 12 months! In-state tuition is $13,500 for the entire degree!

Is that like the lowest commitment possible for a degree or what? At the same time, it might be easier for me to discover my true interests/ calling in a more fluid work environment.

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I'm not sure how much it helps, but in terms of preparation, they will expect you to know the material at the level of this book (plus calculus and linear algebra).

In your first semesters, you will be covering material from this book, among others.

I really don't think it should be too difficult to finish that program in a year, as you said. Most of the students like the professors that teach classes in that departments as well.

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I'd probably take the job now; it seems you're just not mentally ready to commit to further school, even though as someone mentioned it is another year. Another year and you're better placed for a better job.

As to whether you NEED the MS - what exactly do you want to do. I mean I saw "analysis" and "data" in there, but what are you looking to do career wise?

And finally, what kind, what is the LA book you are using?

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It seems to me that your primary concern is the 'math' in statistics that you would be needing. I am about to finish my masters from a good school in the east. Although I am a math major, I realized I didnt really use any Math beyond Calc II. Even the knowledge of LA required is minimal. Ofcourse it depends on the course structure and professors, but it seems to me its possible to go through the year without having to deal with gruesome math. Most of the time, there is a lot of emphasis given on how to approach data sets for analysis.

In your case, it also might be that you are just getting anxious having been away from school for a while maybe. Sometimes it happens that right before an important event in life, we begin to question it. Change at the end of the day, is change and we need to get used to it.

I say plunge in! go to school, the jobs will keep coming! :)

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A more common text for first-year stat theory courses is Casella and Berger.

They'll be using that text at my alma the next time our graduate stats sequence runs.

Even the knowledge of LA required is minimal. Ofcourse it depends on the course structure and professors, but it seems to me its possible to go through the year without having to deal with gruesome math.

LA comes up in the various modeling courses one might take; for the masters he may well be able to get out of there without taking one depending on the focus of the program; if he is going the analysis track really no way around that. As for knowledge beyond Calc II - I suppose that surprises me. Again it all depends on the instructor and I suppose one could get through a graduate course in Prob/Stat Inf. without some advanced calculus - I just don't see how.

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I dunno. . .if this is a graduate course, that is an undergrad textbook.

Having taken the intro Math Stats course that he will be required to take next year, I can assure you that this is in fact the book that he will use first semester.

Most of the classes the OP would take in this program are technically listed at senior-level undergraduate courses.

In the second semester, he will have to take a more advanced Math Stats class, which typically usually uses Bickel and Doksum, although the exact text is chosen at the discretion of the instructor (as far as I know).

Edited by R Deckard
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